Belarus says Russians plotted attacks; Kremlin denies

WION Web Team Minsk, Belarus Jul 31, 2020, 11.36 AM(IST)

Lukashenko and Putin Photograph:( Reuters )

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The grave accusations mark an unprecedented spike in tensions between Russia and Belarus.

Belarus on Thursday accused more than 30 detained Russians of plotting terror attacks amid a presidential election campaign. Kremlin, however, vehemently refuted the allegations.

The grave accusations mark an unprecedented spike in tensions between Russia and Belarus.

The Belarusian State Security Committee said it detained 32 people from private Russian military firm Wagner early Wednesday at a sanitarium outside the capital of Minsk. Another person was detained in the country's south.

Security Council Secretary said Thursday that the Russians are facing a criminal probe on charges of plotting terror attacks in Belarus, adding that authorities were searching for another 200 Russian "militants" believed to be in the ex-Soviet nation.

The Kremlin responded by urging Belarus to explain its action and to fully respect the detainees' rights.

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"There is no information about any wrongdoing of the Russians that may have caused the detention.,"
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Russian Ambassador Dmitry Mezentsev also dismissed the accusations as unfounded. He said the Russians were en route to an unspecified country and checked into the sanitarium near Minsk after they missed a connecting flight at the capital's airport.

Mezentsev demanded immediate consular access to the detainees and urged Belarusian authorities to show their evidence against the Russians.

President Alexander Lukashenko is campaigning to remain in office amid an upsurge in opposition protests fuelled by a painful economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Some observers see the detention of the Russians as an attempt by the president to mobilise public support in the August 9 election. Independent observers and opposition supporters have dismissed the alleged terror plot as a campaign stunt by Lukashenko.

Belarus and Russia have a union deal envisaging close political, economic and military ties, but Moscow has recently cut some of the subsidies, arguing that Belarus must accept closer integration to receive energy resources at a discount.

To this end, the Belarusian leader has bristled at Russian demands and accused the Kremlin of harboring plans to deprive Belarus of its post-Soviet independence.

Lukashenko is seeking a sixth term in next month's election.